Over the past few years, I have found myself in the process of learning to feel and observe my emotions. Something that was so natural when I was young, had become obscured as I got older and learned push uncomfortable emotions away. Years of stuffing emotions into the nooks and crannies of my being created a lot of discomfort that eventually called for my attention. I could no longer ignore that all emotions are a normal part of the human experience. And so began my process of awakening to these emotions that had been stored, some of them for years and years.
A common question that comes up with clients when we get to working with emotions in general and particularly with difficult emotions is this:
"Why is it important to feel my emotions?"
It seems simple enough and is a fair question to explore. I have had this question coming up with increasing frequency, so I wanted to offer some ways of navigating this "emotional awakening" that I have learned over the years. There are many things I could say to address the "why" of the question, but what is beneath all of the research and the reasons to awaken to emotion is the real experience of emotion coursing through the body. This is where we must learn to navigate and place our attention. Simply put, it comes down to these three things:
1. Presence with Self
2. Kindness toward Self
3. Patience with the Process
To add a bit more detail, presence or paying attention to our emotions allows them to be seen. Emotions may be present to send a message or encourage us to take a closer look at our beliefs, habits and lives. Often, they simply pass if we observe without judgment. Emotional waves are completely normal and become easier to identify and observe with practice and presence. Kindness is perhaps the most important part of the equation because when we are present to our emotions without it, we often turn to questions like "What am I doing wrong?", "Is there something wrong with me?", etc. This judgment and self-blame only perpetuates the cycle of emotional flatness. Kindness towards oneself and the present moment experience allows for anything to arise and be seen with honesty. Finally, patience is an important part of the process because there is a learning curve when it comes to navigating our emotions. We don't release old habits overnight and often have to re-pattern ways of thinking and relating that have been with us since childhood and even birth. So, be patient with yourself and the process of awakening to your emotions.**
Creating Emotional Fluidity
Like anything, allowing our emotions to flow through our bodies takes a bit of practice. We are used to catching them, stuffing them, running away from them, or hiding from them. This is especially true with strong emotions such as anger, fear, passion and joy. By staying present with our emotions, we begin to liberate ourselves from the stories we have created about our sadness, for example, and we can become honest about what is truly there.
And with that honesty, comes power and choice.
**Sometimes strong or difficult emotions are a part of the emotional awakening process. Or, perhaps we encounter a past trauma. This is where reaching out to a friend or professional that you trust is important. Navigation is not always about how much you can do alone, but it often involves others. I have seen many times in my clinical practice an emotion that may be stuck is integrated simply by having a trusted space to do so.